A great smile spread across Aurora’s face as the winged woman came into view. “Maleficent!” she called out, a pair of wings extending in response.
Aurora broke into a sprint. She soon made it across the boundary line and, without warning, enveloped the fairy in a hug. Maleficent froze for a moment, having somehow forgotten about the young queen’s predilection for physical contact. When her memory returned only a brief moment later, she gave in to the touch and wrapped her arms fondly around the panting girl.
“I’ve missed you so much,” Aurora sighed into Maleficent’s shoulder. Rebuilding the kingdom that king Stefan had left behind was proving to be a difficult task, and over the past year, Aurora had been forced to stay away from the Moors much longer than she would have wanted. It had been thirty-seven days since she had last seen Maleficent, and another twenty-eight since she had last spent the night in the place she felt she belonged.
Aurora knew that it was temporary; that all her efforts served to make sure that, in a few years, king Stefan’s terrible legacy would have all but faded, and she would once again be allowed to divide her time between the Moors and the human world as she wished. As much as she reminded herself of this, however, she could not find a way to stop herself from missing the Moors whenever she was forced to stay with the humans for extended periods of time: her aunts, the many friends she had made since that first night when Maleficent had taken her through the wall of thorns; even just walking around in the Moors and sensing its magic all around her, that nearly tangible feeling that every single thing was somehow alive, breathing. She missed the Moors terribly whenever she was trapped in that dark castle of humans. But most of all, she missed Maleficent.
“I’ve missed you too, Beastie.”
Aurora positively beamed at the sound of her nickname.
“How have you been?” Maleficent asked, tucking some stray hairs behind Aurora’s ear before taking a step back and ending the hug. She moved toward the forest, not having to look back to know that the queen followed.
“Good,” Aurora answered instinctively, before her face clouded. “It’s all going much slower than I would like, and the castle is very...” She struggled to find an appropriate word. “Cold,” she decided. “And you’re not there.” She looked at Maleficent then, her smile fading when her gaze was met with sad eyes. “Most of the people are really nice, though,” she tried instead. “I think they’re so glad that king Stefan is gone and they don’t have to see their men go off to battle that they’re willing to accept this alliance with the Moors, even if they are still a bit scared of the unknown.” She gave Maleficent a smile, but did not receive one in return.
“But let’s talk about something else. It is my birthday, after all.” Her look changed to a hopeful one, and was glad to finally see a small smile break through the fairy’s stony features.
“I have heard that humans typically receive gifts on their birthday,” Maleficent said. She waited for Aurora to nod before continuing. “I do not have a gift for you.”
“Oh, that’s all ri–” Aurora started, before a look by Maleficent indicated that she had not finished.
“But if there is anything that you wish for – anything at all – as long as it is mine to give, you may have it.”
They walked in silence for a little while, Aurora’s face pensive.
She stopped abruptly. “Can I touch your wings?”
Maleficent regarded her strangely.
“You’ve touched my wings many times.”
“No, you’ve touched me with your wings,” Aurora countered. “Like when we hugged, before. But I’ve never really touched them.”
Maleficent’s face portrayed a mixture of puzzlement and fascination. She trusted Aurora completely, which was the only reason she had found the confidence to grant her a wish, but a small part of her, one which had never fully recovered from Stefan’s betrayal, had still expected Aurora’s human greed to overtake her and ask for wealth, or power, or a combination of both.
“This is your wish?” she asked, brow furrowed.
Aurora nodded enthusiastically, seemingly not aware of Maleficent’s disbelief.
“Very well then.”
Maleficent turned around and spread her wings a little.
Aurora reached up tentatively, placing a hand softly on the claw of Maleficent’s right wing, slowly letting it slide outwards. Maleficent looked over her shoulder to find Aurora utterly concentrated on her actions, flattening her palm now to brush along the length of the feathers.
It was difficult not to lean into the touch, but Maleficent managed to stay rooted as Aurora continued the light tracing of her fingers.
“They’re so beautiful,” she spoke, somewhere along the way, then moved to repeat most of the process on the left wing.
Eventually she shifted to stand right behind Maleficent. Then the tips of her fingers were trailing over the fabric of Maleficent’s dress as the rest of her hand touched the base of the wing.
“What’s wrong?” Aurora asked, pulling away immediately.
“Nothing,” Maleficent replied stiffly, before relaxing just a little. “It’s just a little sensitive.”
“Oh,” Aurora replied, struck with the thought that the place where her wings had been cut off might still be somewhat sore, even after their magical reattachment a year ago.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“You didn’t, little Beastie,” Maleficent assured her. She folded her wings and turned around, casting a reassuring look at the blonde.
“Thank you,” Aurora said then, “for letting me do this”.
This made Maleficent laugh, in that way that she had which managed to make the action look both absolutely beautiful and just a little frightening. “You are the strangest human I have ever met.”
“I will take that as a compliment,” Aurora said, her chin raised in mock offence even as a wide smile crept on her face. “So, is it true that my aunties are knitting me a scarf as tall as Balthazar?”
“Oh, no,” the fairy replied, “he could wrap it around his neck and it would still drag across the ground. You could wrap it around your entire body. Twice.”
“Maybe I will,” Aurora grinned.
“Oh, good. Then you will finally stop moaning for me to shield you from the cold with my wings.”
Aurora laughed. “That will never happen.”
Maleficent hoped it wouldn’t.